Annual Ghost Village Road Event a No-Go This Halloween

By Nick Schou   |   November 5, 2020
Unlike years past, Halloween is officially ghosting Coast Village Road this October. Thanks, 2020!

Every Halloween since 1996, the year after Montecito Journal’s first issue hit local newsstands, Coast Village Road has turned into “Ghost Village Road.” The annual event typically drew upwards of 1,000 parading trick-or-treaters along Coast Village Road, where local shop owners, restaurateurs, and hoteliers would hand out candy and in some cases create pop-up haunted houses for the little ones.

Not even the tragic Thomas Fire and mudslides two years ago could stop the tradition. But this year, for the first time in a quarter-century, thanks to nothing less than a global pandemic, the event has been cancelled. According to a notice put out last week by the Coast Village Association (CVA), while local merchants will be very much celebrating the holiday in spirit, the necessity of safe social-distancing requires the unfortunate hiatus.

According to MJ founder James Buckley, the term “Ghost Village Road” is actually something of an inside joke, given that 25 years ago, Coast Village Road was hardly the bustling commercial district with constantly backed-up traffic that you see today. 

“I’m pretty sure I gave this event its name when we started it the first year,” Buckley said. “The term comes from the fact that back then, Santa Barbara and particularly Montecito were still sleepy outposts of Los Angeles, and Coast Village Road had no business going on, and so people called it Ghost Village Road.”

The idea for a Halloween parade came about as a way to try to lively up the eerily desolate commercial landscape each autumn. “Merchants started responding right away, including all the realtors, but in particular the stores and restaurants,” Buckley said, adding that, for the first few years, at least 50 percent or more of the kids who participated in the event were from Montecito, whereas in later years it began to draw trick-or-treaters from much further afield.

In the beginning, said Buckley, there was no police presence at all, with the only security and crosswalk assistance being provided by CVA volunteers. “Finally the police came on board because it would get dark and was dangerous for kids to cross the street, because we didn’t have the constant traffic jam-up at that time.”

Along with the annual Fourth of July parade, Buckley says, the original Ghost Village Road event only advertised in the Journal. “That was the only publicity it got,” he said. “It really kicked us off as a paper, because people had no idea we were so widely read,” he recalled. “But when one thousand kids showed up, people started to realize.”

CVA and its merchant members, meanwhile, would like all of Montecito’s ghosts and ghouls to know that they’ll still be here next year, and with twice the candy. And remember, you read it here first!


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